How to write a screenplay

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How to write a screenplay

TwelvePoint for macOS

So how do you bring your first scene to life?

You have a story, you want to write it down and finally publish it. If the story is a novel, you will not take too much into account the formatting of the script, a basic structure in chapters will do; at the end the final editor will re-write it the way is meant to match the publishing format.

Scripts for movies / TV Show are a bit different.

Screenplays have strict formatting rules and “best of all”, those rules change in almost every country. Rules cover page layout, text margins, differentiation between a dialogue and a narrative paragraph and so much more…

Failing to meet the requirements will probably result with your script not being read and thrown into a trash bin even before reaching the final reviewer.

Of course, there are reasons for those rules. Good reasons.

Who reviews the script needs to quickly assess its feasibility and for the actors to quickly discriminate what it is to be said vs. just a scene description.

Historical reasons are also the factors that some margins are applied, for example, easy printing. Shall you be scared by all this? No!

A general understanding of the areas will suffices at the beginning to let you into this amazing world.

Basically any screenplay can be written just a with a normal text editor and if it is clean enough, that would be a very first for an absolute beginner.

Why do I need a script editor?

Even though any script can be written through any given textual mean (typewriter, word processor, etc.), there are additional things to be evaluated.

Scripts have been produced for long time just using typewriters, but there is no need to stick to this process when we can reduce our pain into something more structured.

Below some bullets to better define why it is better to use a script editor:

  • Focus on your story: first, you want to focus on the content. If every time you need to be careful to the formatting, the margins, the wrong font, you will never be free enough to let you imagination fly.
  • Complex stories: your story can have a very standard structure, a linear one with maybe 20 scenes, or can have flashbacks, different timelines, several characters and locations. When the number of elements increases, the chances to do mistakes goes exponential. Even worst, you might be going to assemble a script that does not have a clean workflow.
  • Statistics: scripts are evaluated by the story they tell, but also by the costs. Usually stories that occurs inside a studio (INT. = "interior") are cheaper (not always) to produce than those outside (EXT. = "exterior"). So script editors usually come with statistics tools that tell you, the number of locations, the number of words spoken, etc. etc.
  • 360 degrees: to write a clean and well-structured script you need to be able to jump from a detailed view to a global one, to see if the elements are well-placed together.

TwelvePoint has been developed so that all the recurring frustrating elements of screenwriting become irrelevant. You focus on the story, the app will take care of all the rest: font, formatting, layout.

Our aim with TwelvePoint is to bring a tool that will make writing easy, fluid, quick. It does not matter what type of writer you are, if you like to plan in advance the scenes or if you want just to start writing…. TwelvePoint adapts to your styles.

Ideally, with TwelvePoint you could write your script no knowing one single thing of screenwriting elements or formatting; just point and click, add items and publish.

We do not recommend this! But, well, it is feasible… 🙂

Anyway like with all the automations, it is always good to know the basics…it will help you with more complex narratives and will help you to present your script to others using a naming convention that is generally accepted.

To presents all the elements of a script we will use a very simple screenplay, not a masterpiece but with enough elements to give you the gist of which element is used and when.



GEORGI enters the room. The room is dark and it is silent. He can barely see a table at the center with something big on top.

Is anybody here?

He is here!   He is here!

DANYL and Adele get closer to the table.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

Wow! What a surprise! Guys, how long have you been hiding here in this room?

After the cake, the three decide to go out for some drinks.


The pub is full of people. The three friends go to sit at the counter.

Thank you guys! I am having a wonderful evening!

The music starts. Lights get lower. Georgi starts to dance.




Screenwriting is based on strict rules that cover, the font used (Courier 12pt), the page size, the margins, etc. but unfortunately almost each country that produces movies or TV Shows has developed their own standards. The most popular formats (but not the only ones) are the American, Italian and French.

Note that these standards have a very different way of organizing margins, keywords (Exterior is in English: EXT., in Italian: EST., etc.), scene headings and in some cases also sounds.

We will not cover here the differences of style, and we will always refer to the U.S. Standard, anyway with TwelvePoint you can switch between one another without changing one line of text.


When you need to specify a specific change from one scene to another in terms of space or time, you use a transition. You can use different transitions in your script, but each script always start with “FADE IN:” and ends with “FADE OUT.”.


The heading provides the description of the environment in which the dialogs and the actions will occurs.

In the example above we have two scenes and therefore two headings:



The heading is almost always composed of three elements: interior or exterior (INT or EXT), a location address or generic place identification (e.g., Downtown) and the identification of the time of the day (e.g., Day or Night).

The style of the heading changes slightly depending on the adopted standard (U.S., Italian, French, etc.). The different standards will be the topic for another post, for the moment, do not worry about different standards as mentioned above TwelvePoint let you focus on the content; you will be able to publish according to any format just selecting the right publish template.


An action is everything but a dialog. You can use actions to describe what it is happening in the scene between one dialogue and another.

In our example above we have:

DANYL and Adele get closer to the table.

This is an action describing a piece of the scene.


A Dialogue represents the spoken part of a scene. In the screenplay a dialogue is presented with the name of the character on top of a paragraph of text. Sometimes parenthetical are added below the character’s name to provide directions about the way the words are spoken.

In our example above we have:

Happy birthday!

DANYL: it is the name of the character, notice that the name is always written in capital letters.

(shouting): it is the parenthetical, describing the way the words are expressed.

Happy birthday!: it is what the character is saying.


A shot or a series of shots are used within the scene to add emphasis to the series of events occurring. It can be seen very similar to a montage and usually refers to a single action.


Sometimes in a scene, two or more characters talk at the same time. A musical, or just simple scene like the one presented here above, may use a dual dialogue to make it clear to the reader the dynamics of the dialogs.

The dual dialogue is presented in a screenplay in two columns.

In our example above we have:

He is here!   He is here!

Here DANYL and ADELE speak at the same time “He is here!”.

Also in this case TwelvePoint will handle the formatting, you need just to decide who is speaking and what is being said. It is as simple as that.